Everything has its own life span. Typhoons are no exception.

There are short-lived and long-lived typhoons. Typhoon No. 5, which is currently wandering off the southern coast of Japan, has been hanging around for quite a bit.

If this tropical cyclone lives until the night of Aug. 4, it will turn 14 days and a half old, becoming the eighth longest-lived typhoon since 1951, when official records of typhoons started being kept.

Typhoon No. 5 was born July 21 near Minami-Torishima island in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, which is the easternmost territory belonging to Japan.

The typhoon has been wildly meandering, changing directions sharply to west and east a couple of times and then following a curved track southwest. It is now heading toward the Amami islands and southern Kyushu.

To an untrained eye, it looks as if the typhoon has been performing a bewildering dance on the sea.

The average life span of typhoons is 5.3 days, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). The longest-lived typhoon on record was Typhoon No. 14 in the summer of 1986. It lived for 19 days and six hours.

In Taiwan, that typhoon, which struck the island straight on, was called “chao ji guai tai” (super monster typhoon).

Yo Nyomura, 66, a weather forecaster who worked for the JMA for a long time, says typhoons that develop in July and August tend to saunter about for quite a while. It is much more difficult to predict the courses of summer typhoons than those of autumnal typhoons, according to Nyomura.

“Every time a summer typhoon grows, forecasters get extremely exhausted,” he says.

When he was working for the JMA, Nyomura and his colleagues observed typhoons on a two-shift system as long as they were within the Japanese observation area.

“I couldn’t take a day off even during the Bon holidays, and I could seldom attend meetings among my relatives,” says Nyomura.

But government officials at meteorological and other disaster-related agencies are not the only people who get extremely busy when the nation is hit by a storm or a flood in the summer.

The governors and mayors in areas hit by major disasters usually cannot afford to take a day off.

Last month, Akita Governor Norihisa Satake was found to have played golf and enjoyed himself eating and drinking while his prefecture was severely damaged by floods. He was later criticized severely by people in the affected areas.

With a continuing series of extreme weather situations and climatic disasters, such as torrential rain, a band of massive cumulonimbus towers, known as a squall line, as well as long-lived typhoons, summer is a season that makes life difficult for weather forecasters.

Although I don’t even have basic meteorological knowledge, in this season I often find myself staring at multiple circles plotted on a map for typhoon track forecasting.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 4

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